Parker Pustejovsky was just 4 when his father, Joey, was killed in the April 17, 2013, explosion that devastated West.
He still remembers his father’s gentle words of encouragement and the fatherly advice intended to help keep him on the straight and narrow.
But most of all, he remembers going to the city park with his father and can’t wait for it to be reborn as a tribute to first responders and a children’s paradise.
Groundbreaking for Parker’s Park, as it has become known, will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday on the site of the old West City Park, which is between Reagan and Stillmeadow streets in West.
Organizers hope the park, which will be built by hundreds of volunteers, will be open by the second anniversary of the explosion.
Like much of the town, the park was devastated by the blast at West Fertilizer Co. that killed Parker’s father and 14 others, mostly first responders like Pustejovsky.
Parker, who is now a 6-year-old first-grader, had a dream of rebuilding the park, where he and his family spent so many hours playing. A massive fundraising campaign was launched that raised $220,000 from donors across Texas and other states.
“Parker is ready for it to roll,” said his grandfather, Joe Pustejovsky. “If it was ready to play on tomorrow, he would be out there. He is excited. I think a lot of kids their age are. They are pretty much in the same boat. He is ready for the ceremony on Saturday.”
The dominant feature of the park will be a tower topped by a 17-foot-long, 12-foot-high firefighter’s helmet featuring the logo of the West Volunteer Fire Department and providing shade for a climbing wall.
Other play areas will feature ambulance and police themes.
Joe Pustejovsky said the group of volunteers from the community and beyond hopes to start putting the playground equipment together in late March after the rubbery, bouncy safety mat is installed as a base.
“This new park is going to enhance the community quite a bit,” he said. “It has served as an instrument to bring a lot of people together for a common cause, not just in this community but people from multiple states.”
West Mayor Tommy Muska said rebuilding the park is the first of three planned stages for the area. The second phase will include a city pavilion, with tennis courts and a green space, which hopefully will get kicked off in the summer, he said.
The third phase will include a memorial to those killed in the explosion.
“This is, by and large, another step in the road back,” Muska said. “We have had our steps. The school started construction, the nursing home started construction, and the streets and utilities are underway. The park is just another steppingstone in the recovery of the city.
“It is a much-needed venue and I am very proud of Parker and his dream and his goal. I know this park will be a lasting memory that the citizens of West will remember, cherish and enjoy.”